Tuesday 6th November 2018 marked Everybody’s talking about Jamie’s first Birthday in the West End. After having a sell-out run at the Sheffield Crucible in 2017, its transferred to the Apollo theatre later that year. Since then the show has been broadcast all around the world in cinemas and has recently announced that it has a movie version in the works.
The show is based on the BBC Three documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’ that aired in 2011. Having not long seen the documentary, the show differs quite a lot from the original story. This, however, is not a bad thing. Theatrical license has allowed them to bring the show into 2018 and add the diversity it needs to bring it into this modern world.
The show follows 16 year old Jamie New who has a dream of becoming a drag queen. We follow his struggles at school and his longing to go to school prom in a dress and his journey on becoming the performer he has always dreamt of being.
It is so refreshing to see a new and original piece of theatre, that is not based on a film or a book, enjoy success in the West End. The team behind this have really created something so special and important for today’s society. Dan Gillespie Sells (Music & Orchestrations), Tom MaCrae (Book & Lyrics) and Jonathon Butterell (Director & Co-Writer) have pulled together something that is pure genius.
John McCrea is a powerhouse in this role, he is just perfect in every way. He embodies the role of Jamie like it is himself and he really does capture the audience. His comic timing and vocals were just perfection, he is the star attraction of this show and you must see him before he leaves next year.
Rebecca McKinnis, who has taken over the role of Margaret from original performer Josie Walker having previously understudying the role, plays the role with a subtlety and understanding that makes the audience so comfortable in her presence. Her rendition of ‘He’s My Boy’ was understated but by the end had everyone in tears. A wonderful performance.
The latest star casting to add to the list in the West End right now is Michelle
Visage in the role of Jamie’s teacher Miss Hedge. I struggle to believe that a careers teacher in this high school would look or act the way Visage presented herself on stage and although her basic performance skills were good she did not match up to anyone else on that stage.
A mention must go to Shobna Gulati and Lee Ross who play Ray and Hugo, they both add so much humour and heart to the story that we can’t help but fall in love with them.
This show features a very good ensemble of actors, with the nature of the piece they aren’t the typical ‘ensemble’ of a musical, all playing separate students and really being in the centre of the story. Although some of the vocals were slightly off, they are a fantastic company and pull together to tell the most wonderful story.
This story is so important and needs to be told, a story of acceptance of one’s self and each other. Jamie doesn’t force himself, his sexuality or his aspirations on anyone but what he does is learn to be himself and accept that and others. Jamie goes through struggles in the story but what we learn is to not judge them. This is a show that needs to be visited by every single high school in the country and also seen by far more people. This is a modern masterpiece with so much heart and joy.
Review by Mark Swale